Thursday, October 12, 2023

Alabama A&M has not received much in return for its president's spending big bucks to solidify its place in the world of MAGA Republicans, such as Tuberville

Dr. Daniel Wims and U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville

Efforts by historically Black Alabama A&M University to align itself with MAGA Republican political figures, including U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville and his history of making dubious statements on matters of race, have their roots in Louisiana, according to a report from A longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, Watkins reports that A&M President Daniel Wims hired an associate in Louisiana, Shannon Reeves, to help cement A&M's status within the MAGA orbit. This came after Wims had spent $220,000 on the right-leaning Skipper Group lobbying outfit in Auburn, AL. Watkins says Reeves is Wims' "co-pilot" in the effort to move A&M rightward.

Under the headline "Louisiana GOP Central Committee Member Leads Alabama A&M's Foray Into MAGA Politics," Watkins writes:

Shannon Frank Reeves, Sr., is the man Alabama A&M University President Daniel K. Wims tapped in July 2022 to lead the university's foray into Alabama's MAGA wing of the Republican Party. Reeves is the university’s Associate Vice President for Governmental Affairs.

Prior to assuming his Governmental Affairs position, Reeves owned and operated a one-man lobbying firm called Reeves Strategies, LLC, from October 2021 to July 2022.

On December 5, 2020, Shannon Reeves was elected to the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee as the member for the 29th Senatorial District, Division A, according to election records obtained from the Louisiana Secretary of State's office.

At the time of his election, Reeves was the Executive Director of the Office of Alumni Affairs at historically black Grambling State University.

By the time President Wims hired Shannon Reeves for the university's Government Affairs position in July 2022, Wims had already embarked on a course of action to embed Alabama A&M deep into the heart of Alabama’s MAGA movement. Shannon Reeves is Wims' co-pilot on this journey.

Why would the president of Alabama A&M be willing to pay big bucks for the "privilege" of rubbing shoulders with Tommy Tuberville and similar MAGA types? Watkins has a  possible answer to that one, but it does not necessarily square with reality. He writes:

Dr. Wims privately justifies his foray into MAGA politics by saying it is necessary to get funding for Alabama A&M. In truth, Wims has gotten nothing from his MAGA friends in return but meaningless trinkets that stroke his ego and make him feel good on a personal basis.

Dr. Wims has completely distanced himself from Black members of the Alabama Legislature. Reportedly, Wims has no respect for Black elected officials, individually or as a group.

Dr. Wims' documented personal campaign donations have been made to White Alabama MAGA Republican candidates, exclusively.

Does someone at Alabama A&M, say members of the board of trustees, have oversight authority over Dr. Wims' speding habits? Watkins addresses that penetrating question:

Alabama A&M's board of trustees has not stated publicly whether it approved Dr. Wims' foray into the state's MAGA political movement or whether Wims acted in this politically sensitive territory without seeking board guidance or approval. The minutes of board of trustees meetings do not reflect any specific approval of Wims' concerted actions to make Alabama A&M a trusted ally of the state's MAGA movement.

So far, Watkins states, Dr. Wims appears to have spent big bucks for mostly GOP trinkets that add little value to the university:

In October 2021, Wims hired Auburn-based Skipper Group, a two-man GOP lobbying firm, and paid the company $220,000 to pal around with the likes of Alabama U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, Gov. Kay Ivey, former House Speaker Mack McCutheon, state Sen. Sam Givhan, and a host of other Republican officials in Alabama, all of whom are devoted followers of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement.

In exchange for the hundreds of thousands of dollars Alabama A&M has poured into courting Donald Trump’s MAGA devotees in Alabama, Dr. Wims and the university have received nothing but token gestures of support.

For example, Alabama A&M received a nice Proclamation from Gov. Ivey declaring October as “HBCU Month.”

Former Alabama House Speak Mike McCutheon gave Dr. Wims the state flag that flew over the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on the day of Wims’ Investiture as Alabama A&M’s new president.

Finally, Alabama A&M received about two dozen positive news stories in Yellowhammer News, the unofficial MAGA Republican news site in Alabama. The university reportedly paid for this favorable coverage with money that was funneled through the Skipper Group to Yellowhammer News. Buying favorable news coverage is an emerging trend in Alabama and Florida

These funds went to a "news organization" that is closely aligned with longtime GOP lobbyist/consultant Dax Swatek, who is connected to some of the nastiest political animals Alabama has to offer -- including former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Robert Bentley, former Governor Bob Riley and his oily son, Rob Riley, former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, and former Business Council of Alabama (BCA) President Bill Canary.

Perhaps the creepiest political/legal animal tied to Dax Swatek is his own father, Pelham lawyer William E. Swatek. In the interest of space, I won't provide a detailed account of Bill Swatek's career of crookedness in this post, but I have tried to hit the "highlights" here and here.

As for the peculiar political situation at Alabama A&M, Wims does not seem to have his university's best financial interests in mind, writes Watkins:

None of Dr. Wims' new, expensive, “bought and paid-for” MAGA political friends has offered to help Alabama A&M collect a dime of the $527,280,064 that the state of Alabama owes the university. In fact, all of them are opposed to the state paying Alabama A&M this money. Wims, himself, has been publicly silent on this matter.

What is more, each of Wims' new MAGA political friends supported the Alabama State Legislature’s willful, open, and, proud defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court order issued on June 8, 2023, in Milligan v. Allen that required the creation of a second majority Black Congressional district in Alabama to remedy racial gerrymandering against Black voters in the state's redistricting map.

History tells us that A&M, and its sister HBCU (Alabama State), usually do not get a fair shake on funding unless a federal court gets involved. Mims, it seems, is doing nothing to change that at A&M. Writes Watkins:

Equitable funding for Alabama A&M and Alabama State University has never occurred, absent a federal court order.

Only Alabama A&M is the beneficiary of a letter from the U.S. Department of Education and Agriculture to Gov. Ivey confirming that the state of Alabama owes the university $527,280,064 due to chronic under-funding as a land-grant institution during the past 30 years. ASU does not have such a letter.

MAGA officials on Goat Hill in Montgomery are convinced that Dr. Wims lacks the intestinal fortitude and presidential commitment to Alabama A&M that is required to collect the $527,280,064 that is owed to the university by the state. They are also convinced that Dr. Wims does not want to cause any discomfort for his MAGA political friends in the state.

Today, Alabama A&M is mired in MAGA Republican politics with no way to extricate itself, short of its board of trustees firing Dr. Wims.

Donald Watkins attached the following note to his post today:

[Publisher's Note: does not sell ads or require subscription fees to read our news content. We do not accept money from any source to publish favorable, neutral, or negative news articles. We are truly "unbought" and "unbossed." This is the only way to bring our readers the hard, cold, truth about matters of significant public interest.

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